One of the best parts of being an expat in South Korea is the abundance of things to do. Seriously, you are overwhelmed by choices. Part of the reason I’ve been living here for a whopping four years now is because I’m never bored.
I remember feeling rather constricted by what I could do in my spare time back in the States. While I had a car and the freedom to drive wherever I pleased, by the time I received a paycheck (after a crazy amount going straight to taxes and paying a variety of bills), I had to be careful with how much I spent on gas. Also, it was just ingrained in me to do the same handful of things. There was 1) the mall 2) the movies 3) (mostly) chain restaurants and 4) strip malls. If I was trying to save money, it was mostly a life of Netflix and maybe walking around a park. Let’s not forget that the States as a whole isn’t even close to being as safe as Korea. Which park? What time? Sometimes the best place to walk around was a good 30 minute drive, and was it even worth it then? How sure could I be that something dangerous couldn’t happen there? It’s not to say that Korea is this perfect wonderland of safety, but in my own personal opinion (and experience), I feel very safe here, and I feel like I thrive here because of the amount of activities around me.
While Facebook events have done a world of good for me making connections and doing cool things here, I recently deactivated my account. I also decided to take a break from Instagram, but I plan to return to Instagram in a few months while I’m not so sure about Facebook. I felt that at this current point in time, a lot of forms of social media just weren’t cutting it for me. I was getting sucked into meaningless scrolling, and I wasn’t focusing on my goals. I know a lot of people who have a Facebook account (or insert whatever social media platform you want) and don’t have this issue. I’m just saying this is what was happening to me personally.
I wanted to make more meaningful connections with people, and I felt that using the app Meetup would help me achieve that goal. What I like about Meetup so much is that I feel somewhat forced to get out there and do something, to leave my apartment and actually go up and talk to new people.
So, a few weeks ago, there was a free event for 30 people to attend a Lotus Festival. When I first saw the event, it was already full, but I asked to be on the waitlist. Lucky for me, I got bumped up to be one of the 30 people to attend this day trip. I was under the impression that I would just be attending a lotus festival, but it actually turned out to be so much more. Did I mention that all of this was completely for free?
Here I am with my foreigner tour group. We were granted blue tee shirts with stickers and we posed for a variety of pictures at the various locations we were taken to. I like to think of this one as a big family photo. Overall, it was just a generally fun and chill vibe. I didn’t have any idea what I was signing up for, nor did I know that such a thing even existed, but if doing super cool things and sharing it on social media is a thing, count me in.
I received a free bus ride to Buyeo, where I had the privilege to attend the lotus festival. There were many group photos to be taken. Once settled in, we we quickly ushered to this gigantic pot of watermelon/fruit salad/punch. There was a decent amount of media surrounding us. Like most events in Korea, being a foreigner at such things can be quite the novelty. I’ve always quite enjoyed it, though. When I attend cultural festivals and the like, Koreans are very friendly towards me.
Yes, this was absolutely delicious. I was super excited to come upon this because 1) Who doesn’t love watermelon? and 2) Watermelon is super expensive in Korea so I don’t get to eat it as much as I would like to. I remember when I first came here that I saw a watermelon for the equivalent of about $25.00 and thinking how insane it was. In fact, on the first visit back to the states in July 2018, I actually posed with a watermelon that was $4.99 just because of the reverse culture shock.
In the same vein, there were a variety of tents at the festival selling goods, and I stumbled upon these precious baby watermelons. I’m seeing these more and more now actually. I saw baby watermelons at the grocery store the other day, and I don’t recall seeing them in past years. This particular tent has the little watermelons on sale to be slit open and dranken from. (Dranken from? Is that even English? I swear I have the worst grammar and syntax since I’ve become an expat.)
So, after heaping cups of the watermelon juice/fruit salad midmorning snack, we were granted an hour to walk around to just enjoy the festival. I always continue to be astounded by how beautiful Korea is and how rewarding it is to be granted a day in nature.
Oh, but it didn’t stop there! I would say, hands down, the best part of the entire day was kayaking amongst the lotus flowers. Seriously. Pictures cannot do this experience justice. I would say the entire experience lasted about 10 minutes, but it was a super fun, picturesque, and relaxing 10 minutes.
There’s no way I was going to leave the festival without getting a video and making a gif for you of this gem. I always find the coolest and quirkiest things in Korea, I swear. I totally enjoyed myself watching this performance, It was a good, fun energy.
Lunch consisted of a generous buffet of Korean food. I wish I had a good picture of it, but to be fair, it was pretty standard. Delicious, but nothing out of the ordinary of what I would usually eat here. I do, however, have to mention that I was eternally grateful that the kimchi wasn’t spicy. I admit, I’m a total stereotype, and I’m a foreigner that can’t handle anything beyond a medium salsa. Also, do I think that it was intentionally made to not be spicy? Totally. And it was super endearing.
We even got dessert, and we got to make it! Woohoo! Part of me felt like this was a fun day at summer camp but for adults. I totally did not realize this was part of what I signed up for either. All these cool activities! We got to make watermelon rice cake with the “seeds” actually being chocolate coated sunflower seeds. I have to be honest, I usually don’t care for rice cake here. I find it too bland and to have a weird texture, so I went into this cooking class with the expectation that I would just have fun making it and then give mine away to someone else. However, I was pleasantly surprised. My piece was actually rather tasty. I’m glad I gave it a chance.
Making rice cake is actually much harder than I ever thought. Mixing the flavoring/dye in with the rice flour was easy enough, but sifting was quite the task. You have to perfectly get the green and red part squeezed into their proper tray, too. I had no idea that it went in the steam basket (I’m sure there’s an official word for it, but I totally don’t know.) and has to be cooked just right. It was such a unique experience making this, though. It turned out adorable.
While I lucked out and had a free day of pure fun, here’s
the actual festival information if you ever want to go on your own accord.
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